LAW CHANGE

Referendum: Let's not repeat the 2005 mistake

President Uhuru Kenyatta is the best person to lead this charge and we ought to listen to him.

In Summary

• Kenya is thirsty for a supreme law that fits into the aspirations of all Kenyans and ensure sustained peace and security, and shared economic prosperity.

•Like the crow, Kenya must take up the challenge of quenching this thirst and ensure that everything is set in motion.

Divisive referendum
Divisive referendum
Image: OZONE

A crow perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to it with delight.

When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could thinkf to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain.

At last, he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach and thus saved his life.

 

Kenya is thirsty for a supreme law that fits into the aspirations of all Kenyans and ensures sustained peace and security, and shared economic prosperity. Like the crow, Kenya must take up the challenge of quenching this thirst and ensure that everything is set in motion.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta stated clearly that a referendum is inevitable, if Kenya was to succeed in putting in place the best Constitution. For the first time, we are able to amend the Constitution when we are not in a crisis and as the President said, we have an opportunity to move away from ceasefire documents.

The Building Bridges Initiative has given us an opportunity to ensure we move together as a country and make the necessary amendments. As the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga have continuously stated, the Constitution is a living document that should evolve with time.

President Kenyatta is the best person to lead this charge and we ought to listen to him. He has been the first President under this Constitution and being at the top knows best the challenges arising from the document in the management of the country.

The president also holds a unique place in this debate, as he is the only one with no interest in the next election since he cannot contest for another term. He therefore holds the best key to unlock the problems with the current law and guide the country with zero baggage.

But while we are on this quest, it is important that we do not polarise the country in a similar manner like the 2005 referendum. As a result of that divisive referendum, the country ended up rejecting the proposed law and bloodshed set on the country in the 2007 election.

At that time, we had the Orange and the Banana camps, with the former carrying out a campaign to reject the proposed draft. The Orange camp carried the day after securing 58.35 per cent of the referendum vote.

 

Even as we went to the referendum in 2010, we agreed as a country that the proposed constitution has some 20 per cent defects that we would work on in future. After 10 years, the opportunity is now as we have already seen what is working and what is not.

But this came with major repercussions as it divided the country down the middle ahead of the 2007 elections, leading to violence that left 1,500 people killed and over 600,000 displaced.

The 2010 referendum was definitely different and while there was a NO camp, the YES camp won by 68.55 per cent, which was very decisive. This led the NO camp to concede, making it easier for the transition in 2013.

Between 2005-07, the country was polarised politically, and the losers of the referendum went on to win the next elections. This made things worse as those who had won the referendum could not see how they were losing.

Of course there is the option of amending the Constitution through Parliament, which would save the country the divisive campaigns, if there exists two camps.

But if we go the referendum way. you can be sure to see a very divided country, political lines will be drawn, and thereafter this will be the official launch of the 2022 campaigns.

Let’s not waste this once in a generation opportunity by dividing Kenyans.

The writer is a political and communications consultant @MachelWaikenda